I came across an article in Government Executive that made me smile for a minute. While government contractors wonder about spending cuts and contract stoppage, Congress continues to fight the debt battle. A recent bill (HR 325) aims to extend these talks into May.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Congress decided to take a small step toward personal accountability with a caveat similar to sequestration (that didn’t seem to work either). Section 2 is titled “HOLDING SALARIES OF MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN ESCROW UPON FAILURE TO AGREE TO BUDGET RESOLUTION.” Great idea! How often have regulatory bodies had to put everything else on hold in order to figure out the debt ceiling, budget, continuing resolutions, etc? But, I digress.
The bill gives Congress until April 15, 2013 to come up with the budget or their pay gets locked into escrow. The only problem is the way it is worded appears to make this date arbitrary anyway. Basically, if they fail to act, they won’t get paid until they act, but they still get paid. Then, if they just refuse to act altogether, they will get paid on the last day of the Congressional session anyway. I understand that the 27th Amendment prohibits them from increasing or decreasing their pay, but shouldn’t an exception be made? How about we throw out the “escrow” idea? Perhaps this Congress should put in place a bill that would do this for perpetuity and simply sequester congressional pay until a budget is approved.
I was once at the helm of finances for a government contractor starting up and getting its foothold in the industry. I came up with a simplified budget (before the deadline) that our parent company had to approve. I kept the minutia to myself until they asked for it and things went well. They had an idea of giving us about $1 million less than what we thought so we worked it out in about 2 weeks (with international calls and a slight language barrier on top of it). In the end, we still had about 5 weeks before the end of the year and everyone knew what was going to happen next year. I can almost guarantee if I would have mentioned I wanted to wait for a while they would have not only suspended my pay, but potentially just asked me to turn in my Blackberry, laptop, and corporate card and move on to something else.
Apparently all the other stuff in this bill is important too (tongue in cheek), and this measure will most likely pass. Think of the possibilities if a budget would be approved prior to the beginning of the fiscal year. Think about no longer relying on Continuing Resolutions for funding. Can you imagine how nice it would be to know next year’s budget beforehand?